All right then, you've been warned to expect some of my trademarked "contrariness," this time. A tendency -- call it a compulsion -- to always turn and point in some unexpected direction, especially if I have been looking one way for too long. It drives everything from my chosen profession to science to politics.
And yes, today I plan to take a break from decrypting the political madness of the far-right and instead point my j'accuse finger to the left.
But first, do not even begin to interpret what I am about to say as "both sides are equally crazy." Anyone who read my previous missives can tell which direction I condemn most harshly, as the core of madness and outright treason in American life. I've spoken at length about the rightwing cult that has taken over the conservative movement, sending poor Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave and betraying America by sending our great nation into debilitating "culture war." It is still monstrous and unbelievable that Rupert Murdoch and his co-conspirators can get away with posing as populists, while pursuing oligarchic takeover of the country. Without any doubt, that is the direction from which civilization and the American Republic face their greatest danger.
Anyone who doubts the tenacity with which I've fought this fight should have a glance at any of the following extended (and, I'm told, influential) missives:
Nevertheless, I have also made clear my utter contempt for those who simply choose one of the major ideological cults and thereafter march in uncritical lockstep. People who pronounce themselves proud individualists, but then turn their suspicion of authority reflexes in only one direction.
Yes, the right is presently far more noxious and dangerous, having allowed their entire movement to be taken over by monsters. But Lefties who forget Stalin and Mao are intellectually as bankrupt as righties who ignore 4,000 years of oppression by kings and lords and preisthoods.
In fact, nearly all ideologues can be categorized together by a set of sharedpersonality traits that run deeper than their differences of surface policy. Far-lefties and far-righties both partake, for example, in a near-universal propensity for dismissing civil society as futile.
Contempt for the masses is the common steam that rises from every pore, as they preen over things that they "know" that "the majority is too blind to see."
(Am I unaware of the irony of my having typed the previous three paragraphs? Since a majority of my fellow citizens do seem to swallow the abysmal notion of "left-vs'right" - doesn't that make me a masses-contemptuous snob? Har! Hey, I am human too. The difference is that I know this pitfall and have schooled myself to be wary of it. And yes, that is snobbery, too.)
So, as promised, I am going to offer a little balance, this time. To remind us that the left can be as crazy as the right (even while being less dangerous, during THIS decade) go have a look at a horrific piece of preening nonsense that keeps being sent to me by liberals, who think that it is the best thing since spray-on cheese. It's called Sheeple of Amerika.
Feh! Gawd, this thing is a calumny, on so many levels that I am tempted to call it deliberate psychological warfare against the Enlightenment. Perhaps one of Murdoch's put-up provocations, crafted precisely in order to undermine liberal credibility.
Look, no one can teach me a thing about rambunctious contrarianism and suspicion of authority.
But think. What is the most pervasive and relentless "propaganda" campaign in the history of the world?
When asked this question, people name all sorts of messages that they perceive as responsible for turning the masses into contemptible sheep. Lefties point to pervasive "buy this" consumerism. Rightists screech over the other side's incessant demands for conformist political correctness. What's never mentioned is the propaganda that actually worked... on them! If you asked these guys for a week, a year, and even if their lives depended on it, they would never guess.
Surprise, surprise. We are self-flatterers and so we never attribute OUR favorite traits to propaganda that filled our very pores, from a young age. But there's a pair of messages that inarguably and statistically outnumber both "buy this" and Tolerance Fetishism, combined.
We all grew up suckling Suspicion of Authority (SOA) combined with "I'm a F4$#$@king individual and everybody else are lemmings!"
You see these twin themes conveyed in nearly every film, most of which also portray civilization itself (and its institutions) as utterly hopeless. Usually evil. With some central/awful authority being bravely opposed by one -- or a few -- stalwart individualist heroes who don't need no institutions to stand between them and justice!
Think about it. List the themes in nearly every Hollywood product. Name any messages that occur more often than this pair. But people never notice the propaganda that made THEM the way they are. Now add in the most alluring theme of all. Yes, our old pal contempt for the masses. Go ahead and TEST YOURSELF with my questionnaire.
So, will Brin ever get to the point? How does all of this apply to "Sheeple"?
Let's be frank. THE message of this 'film' is not urging folks to wake up, or fomenting rebellion; it is contempt. Feeding the producers' sanctimonious sense that they are privileged and smarter and more insightful than their sheeplike neighbors, like gods above mere animals. Self-flattery is the cheapest drug around. Any addict can get all he wants, and these guys have it hard. http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.htm
But it gets worse. For, you see, it's been shown that the surest way to get the masses under control is NOT to inculcate worshipful passivity, but rather to spread a dull, simmering state of generalized resentment, aimed in all directions and at each other.
What? You've never studied Machiavelli? Really? What do you think "culture war" is all about? The whole "populist" theme driving Red America to hate the cities and anyone with a graduate degree?
The formula is simple. Inundate the prols with distractions that scatter their SOA in every direction. And if some of those directions are "up" toward some corporations and meeting groups of the rich? So what? So long as you shotgun a vast number of targets, you'll keep it scattered. Impotent. (Notice though, the Sheeple guys never mention Rupert Murdoch or the petroprinces who have been doing the most meddling of all. Gee I wonder why.)
And so, the ultimate irony. This is exactly the sort of thing that the masters would want produced!
Do I seriously believe that "Sheeple" was generated at the AEI or Heritage or some other Murdochian pimphouse? Naw. Funny thing is, they probably got it for free, or maybe with the gentlest prodding. This shit is self-stirring.
Note that this film -- after purportedly demanding that people "wake up!" -- doesn't suggest any of the things that might ACTUALLY cause sheep to look up... such as actual, pragmatic links to learned and detailed analyses of world power, for example. Or self-organizing tools. Nor does it recommend the kind of "proxy power" organizations that can empower any individual to join with large numbers of others, in common cause to deal, effectively, with specific, targeted issues.
They can't offer such suggestions! Because that would be to admit that the sheep can and do self-organize, effectively, and we must never admit that! So, instead, "Sheeple" jumbles a huge goulash. Mixing genuinely worrisome trends, like rising income gaps, with vapid idiocies like 9/11 "loose change" conspiracies and UFO cults. That's right, keep the paranoia spread evenly, guys. It's what you're subsidized to do.
Oh, maybe a third of the slides do point to genuine problems that deserve attention, problem-solving appraisal, or even criminal prosecution. So? A two-second flicker and each issue joins the jumble of true, false, misleading and just plain stupid.
Is the greedy patenting of seed strains and eliminating self-fertility, so that farmers cannot re-seed their fields, evil? Sure! Is Genetic Modification of food crops automatically a crime against people and nature? Bullshit! That's pure luddite sanctimonious unscientific claptrap and the surest sign of dullard minds, while every single bite of food they eat was genetically modified by previous generations of farmers and breeders. Have these guys helped us to intelligently parse the good parts of a techno future from the bad? Hah!
If you actually and really want to pragmatically fight evil, promote justice, save the world and advance the Enlightenment, there's a proved method. One that bypasses all this contempt-for-the-masses malarkey and goes straight to problem solving -- combining the tiny influence of individuals into the momentum of millions. Drop by the PROXY POWER site.
It will tell you how to do exactly that.
Oog, these guys got me exercised. And sure, I expect to be derided as a tool of corporate interests, just for criticizing their lobotomized (or else corporate sponsored) uselessness. But note that I never claimed that they weren't pointing to some genuine enemies of humanity and the world. As I said, about a third of the slides were completely or partially right-on!
But they aren't helpful. Not at any level. As elistists, on a sanctimony drug-high, they are proof that the left contains crazies, too.* They are part of the problem. The REAL problem -- the insanity of culture war.
We won't defeat the Rush Limbaughs by acting just like them. We'll defeat them by being the grownups.
* Reiterating the central point, yet again. The liberal and conservative movements ARE fundamentally different, today. Both contain some good ideas, deepdown. Both contain some crazies. The crucial distinction is that one of these movements keeps its lunatics marginalized. Its leaders perpetually try -- hit or miss -- to re-awaken the American genius for honorable negotiation and pragmatic problem-solving.
The other side may have some genuine ideas, lying dormant under the snows. But all its potential good has been rendered useless, by giving itself over, body and soul, to its psychopathic wing.
Do not hate American Conservatism. Pity it. Pray for the fever to break and for our fellow citizens to rise out of delirium, to rejoin us at the dinner table conversation about human destiny. And defeat them with reason, until they do.